GASKIN – ‘The Contract’ EP (Independent)
Like so many NWOBHM bands Gaskin never got the credit they were due. But you cannot keep a good band down and this three-track EP shows that as a band they’ve still got plenty to say for themselves. Gaskin 2012 still features guitarist/vocalist Paul Gaskin and original drummer and co-founder Dave Norman, aided and abetted by guitarist Andy Solomon (who’s been with them now since they played Wacken in 2000) and bassist Mick Cross.
The most immediate cut of the three is ‘The Contract’ itself. Hard as a diamond, solid as a rock and priceless as a pearl, the Eastern-tinged song features both a cracking solo and wonderful use of harmony vocals, and there’s a neat change of beat towards the end just to keep you on your toes. What’s not to like? “I started jamming the riff back in 2000 when we were rehearsing for Wacken, and I’m more than pleased how it finished up,” recalls Gaskin. “It’s a bit of a Faustian tale, or a ‘deal at the crossroads’ if you're a blues man. I was that fed up of being ignored by the British press over the years that it got me to thinking, ‘would I sell my soul for success?’ And the answer, I’ve decided, is a definite ‘no’. I’ve realised that I don’t need that for true happiness: a sunny day and good company can give me all the pleasure I need.”
‘Mans’ World’ to my mind was the weakest cut when I first heard it, a soft rocker with a nod to ‘Shot In The Dark’ in parts. But repeated plays (and a corking saxophone solo) revealed hidden depths, and you will find yourself humming it for days afterwards. Trust me on this. “‘Bedlam’ is the newest of the songs on the EP, whereas ‘Mans’ World’ was started (with a bunch of others) while I was living in London in ’83. I'd seen a young woman struggling on a busy tube, and it set the cogs working about how hard it must be in a male-dominated world. The female voice on the track is Andy’s girlfriend, Emma, by the way. Initially the song had a guitar solo on it, but thinking it had a ‘radio friendly’ sound like, say, Foreigner, I thought it might sound good with a sax. I posted on Facebook for any good sax players, and several friends suggested Nik Turner so I contacted him and he said he would be more than happy to help. It was all done by sending files via email – how wonderful is that! – and we edited his versions together to make the solo. It wasn’t till after we had it sorted that I discovered he’d played for Hawkwind,” he laughs.
Closer ‘Bedlam’ is the most straight-forward of the three, a bouncy outing whose pace and structure will put a smile on your face despite the lyrical content. “I had recently split with my long-term girlfriend, and was feeling a bit down. She was really bad for me, but I still missed her. Then one morning I awoke with the chorus in my head. It was 5am. I ran downstairs and worked the chords out, and recorded it on my phone. Then I started writing the words as it was happening: “...it’s five in the morning, and I awake to another dream of you...” etc. The opening riff was something I’d had for a while, and it really suited this song. Later that day I was due to work on a track with Dave, when I turned up I said ‘take that down, I have a new one!’ I put up a click track, did the guide guitars, Dave did some guide drums, and it was virtually finished in a couple of hours. The guitar solo, by the way, is still the one I put up as a guide going straight through a little digitech pedal!”
All three tracks on ‘The Contract’ will appear on Gaskin’s new album ‘Edge Of Madness’ which is due, oh, whenever; as the tracklisting still hasn’t been settled – the band have recorded enough material for a double album and are now frantically trying to work out what to release now and what to hold over for next time around – it could be a little while yet before the album sees the light of day. In the meantime, find yourself a fiver, go to the band’s Facebook page and treat yourself.
© John Tucker March 2012